Five Maps of the Adult Territory


The “five maps of the adult territory” is based on the work of the Hudson Institute.

article-Five-MapsWhen trying to make sense of ‘our own world’ we are inclined to over complicate or are quick to use a specific label to explain what has caused us to act in a certain way in a certain set of circumstances. In order to put some kind of structure around what makes us tick the Hudson Institute evolved the ‘five maps’. Each map provides one conceptual model for understanding a fundamental issue for adult growth and development. It is critical to recognise that no one map stands in isolation and they all interact with, and impact on, each other.

If we can identify with the maps then perhaps we can go some way towards improving the way we navigate through life.

Map 1. Composing Your Life – Chapters and Transition

If you want to be happy put your effort into controlling the sail, not the wind – Anonymous

article-Slide1This map describes the ongoing cycle of renewal. It portrays how human beings experience change and it also reveals how we manage and mismanage our experience of change.

Our life is a series of chapters and transitions. Periods of stability and structure are the ‘chapters’ and time when [for the most part] life seems mostly harmonious, purposeful and predictable. The periods in between the ‘chapters’ are when you are in ‘transition’. You are uncomfortable when you are first ‘in transition’ but in time it becomes a period for renewal and self-sufficiency; you seek to learn, discover and grow more.

The basic flow of our lives is a continuous cycle of stable times followed by transition with four predictable phases.
It must be remembered that you will often be in different places on the renewal cycle with different parts of your life!!

Map 2. A Deliberate Life – Living with Passion and Purpose

Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have – Motrman

This map identifies the compelling adult passions and core values to help you locate your deep energy for the destinations you want to pursue now. Yesterday’s passions may not serve today’s goals. Some research undertaken by the Hudson Institute found that successful people measured their lives with six different basic values – often in combination with one another. These core values compete for our loyalty and we often shift throughout our adult life:

  • Personal Power – self-esteem, confidence, identity, inner motivation, a positive sense of self, clear ego boundaries, courage.
  • Achievement – reaching goals, winning, having ambition, getting recognition.
  • Intimacy – love, bonding, caring, making relationships work.
  • Play and Creativity – expressing yourself, being imaginative, intuitive, playful, spontaneous, childlike, curious, non-purposive.
  • Search and Meaning – integrating, unity, integrity, peace, inner wisdom, trust in the flow of life.
  • Compassion and Contribution – giving yourself, improving, helping, being generative, serving, volunteering.

Each of these core values draw upon a different aspect of our human preferences. Every adult has the capacity to tap all six passions, in various combinations at various times in our lives. We need to keep evaluating our priorities and preferences to be sure that at any time we are true to the values we most honour at that time.

Map 3. Life’s Assignments – balancing the parts of your life

Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself – Chief Seattle

Map3 reviews the complex mix of adult roles. Everybody has roles and you cannot live without meaningful roles for yourself in the world around you. They change over time and become more or less fulfilling. At any point in time different roles become.

  1. article-Five-boxesEssential – whether you like them or not
  2. Fulfilling – the ones you prefer and like best
  3. Unfulfilling

Our different roles can be assigned to five different boxes.

Many adults suffer not because they are in the wrong roles, but because they don’t know how to manage or balance their existing roles. They feel they are drowning in the very activity they want to swim in.

Map 4. The Grand Adventure – from twenty to ninety

People travel to wonder at the high mountains, and they pass by themselves – St Augustus

This map describes some general themes, issues and callings of adult life. Each decade of your life feels like a different adventure, guided by shifting concerns and roles. What seems all important in our twenties gets replaced by new challenges in our midlife.

We each change in different ways at different times in our lives.

There are no firm rules to follow with this map, no predicable stages and no reason to conform to age stereotypes.

Twentysomething – staking out the world
Thirtysomething – making it The Midlife Transition (See Model 1.)
Fortysomething – taking charge of individuation
Fiftysomething – the emergence of interdependence
Sixtysomething – beginning again
The remaining period – living the fullness, summing up the story

Map 5. The Adult Learning Agenda – becoming the best that you can be.

Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only education there is – Asimov
“Adults who are truly alive are always learning”

This map is a pick and mix of adult learning from which you choose those special items that will illuminate your path and improve your skills for the next chapter and transition.

There are seven adult learning questions:

  1. Unlearning – what do I have to unlearn if I am going to master the future I truly want?
  2. New information and knowledge – what do I need and what must I avoid?
  3. What personal competence do I have to develop to impact on what I do?
  4. What technical skills will allow me to compete in what I do?
  5. What do I need to learn to keep my life aligned to my values
  6. Where are the resources I need
  7. My coaches and mentors – who are they


The above is a very brief summary of the Five Maps of Adult Territory. It is not necessary to master each map in order to gain greater control of your life situations, settings, issues, concerns and visionary possibilities. But the mastery of the willingness to “JUST DO SOMETHING” is essential.

Each trip around the never ending renewal cycle [Map1.] taps different passions and values [Map2.] that lead you to a new balance of roles [Map3] with a new perspective [map4.] and an opportunity to learn [Map5.]

You may find this approach helpful and you may not – that’s OK.